Derma.plus, the platform for dermatological advice from leading physicians, conducted an international study on skin cancer to better understand the geographical and socio-economic factors which make incidences of the disease more common – and sometimes deadly – in certain regions more frequently than others.
The research makes two decisive findings; firstly, it highlights the inequalities in health care spending across the globe. For example, Bangladesh is the country with the lowest skin cancer prevalence per capita, however the amount spent on 300 skin cancer patients here is equal to the amount spent on one case in Norway. Secondly, the research shows that skin cancer is more prevalent in developed countries. The combination of UV Factor levels and higher scores on the Skin-Tone Scale, indicating paler skin, create an environment where skin cancer is more likely.
The study is divided into two sections: the Skin Cancer Susceptibility Index analyses the UV factor, the average population skin-tone and the rate of incidences from a range of countries to identify geographically where the highest rates of skin cancer are most likely to occur. The second section, the Socioeconomic Treatment Index, cross references national health spending, access to treatment and individual income against mortality rates to better understand the efforts undertaken worldwide to combat the disease.
The results of the Susceptibility Index showed New Zealand as the nation with the highest incidence and likelihood of melanoma per capita, closely followed by Australia, Switzerland, Sweden and Norway. These outcomes are indicative that a high level of UV exposure, coupled with a lighter skin tone (as calculated by the Fitzpatrick-Scale) led to a higher diagnosis of skin cancer. The US and the UK came in ninth and tenth place respectively, with Ireland close behind in fourteenth position.
The second part of the study, the Socioeconomic Treatment Index, revealed that countries such as New Zealand and Australia, which have some of the highest incidences of skin cancer, also have some of the lowest death rates due to high levels of health spending (based on data from the World Bank), and closer equality in terms of life quality across society (based on data from the Human Development Index). Conversely Nigeria scored lowest on the Socioeconomic Treatment Index due to higher societal inequalities and lower health spending, which arguably leads to the high mortality rate. This is despite their previously low rank in the Susceptibility Index.
“The incidence of both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers has increased dramatically over the past decades,” states Prof. Dietrick Abeck, Chief Medical Advisor for Derma.plus. “Worldwide, more than 3-million non-melanoma skin cancers and 150,000 melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed each year. One in every three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer.”
The world’s stats are as follows:
Most cases per capita: 1. New Zealand, 2. Australia, 3. Switzerland, 4. Sweden, 5. Norway
Best access to treatment: 1. Sweden, 2. Switzerland, 3. Italy, 4. Denmark, 5. Germany
Highest mortality rate per capita: 1. Nigeria, 2. Pakistan, 3. China, 4. Bangladesh, 5. Albania
Taking into account the fact that skin cancer claims a life every 10 minutes, the study aims to highlight the precautions and prevention that can be taken across the world to combat the disease. Death rates from the disease have doubled since 1990 and stakeholders such as the World Health Organization are struggling cope with the magnitude of cases and inequality of international medical care. Although the incidence rate may be high in countries with a combination of light skin tone and high UV exposure, adequate health care spending, presumably in the form of treatments and prevention education, appears to be effective in keeping the mortality rate lower than in countries with fewer diagnoses, but where less funds are spent on skin cancer prevention.